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How Can Energy Audits Help An HVAC Business?

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As an HVAC contractor you have heard about home energy audits and your thoughts are mixed about adding energy audits into your HVAC sales process. Let’s explore the benefits.

Market Change – Consumers today are showing more interest in making an informed buying decision when it comes to replacing their old HVAC system. Some homeowners look for energy efficient equipment while others want something that is going to heat and cool their home more comfortably. What they don’t think about is why they have issues with warm or cold rooms, dusty furniture, humidity, and/or poor indoor air quality.

Smart HVAC contractors understand that they are not in the HVAC business alone, but the business of providing a home comfort solution that addresses the issues listed above, all the while minimizing operating costs.

The contractor that conducts energy audits takes this approach to the next level by providing a service that will pinpoint problems through diagnostic testing. The issues identified in the energy audit give the contractor a clear path to develop solutions that will address these issues; they don’t let the replacement of equipment be the sole driver of the scope of work.

According to Richard Dean of Environmental Systems Associates, “I approach HVAC replacements as a three legged stool – equipment, ductwork, and the envelope of the house. Without addressing all three legs you have a system that performs poorly and can be costly to operate.”

Let Technology Work For You – An energy audit requires a properly trained technician (or energy auditor) who can conduct a blower door test, a thorough inspection of the house to identify problems with insulation and air leakage, combustion safety testing, and a duct inspection and leakage test. By properly conducting an audit and entering the data into modeling software, you can determine the issues that exist and rank them in order according to the impact on energy savings and costs.

According to Sean Schmidt of RM Schmidt, Inc., “Without good data you are just guessing. This is especially important when installing more sophisticated energy efficient equipment.”

Frequently, a house that is overly leaky or improperly insulated can require a larger HVAC system. By addressing these issues, an HVAC contractor may be able to reduce the size of the system required, saving money for the customer in both equipment expenses and operating costs.

Poor duct work is another frequent culprit that causes comfort issues. Ensuring the duct work is properly sized, sealed, and insulated will put the conditioned air where it is intended to go; again, potentially reducing the size of the system.

Normal vs. Busy Season – Energy audits are a great way to balance your workload through the ebbs and flows of the year. During the shoulder seasons (spring and fall), you can focus your efforts on conducting energy audits. As the weather heats up or cools down, you can shift toward failed-equipment change-outs and emergency service calls. Either way, you can educate your customer on the house as a system and the HVAC system’s role in comfort and energy efficiency.

Build A Loyal Customer Base – The real value of any contractors’ business is through its customer base. A loyal customer base provides ongoing revenue and customer referrals, which is the best lead generation available. By training your service technicians to look for potential comfort, efficiency, or health and safety issues while they are conducting a service call, you can expand your service offering and help your customers address issues within their homes. Energy audits help build a loyal customer base and provide additional work and better profit margins. You will differentiate your business from your competition.

Not every customer will decide to have an energy audit done, but this should become part of your routine offer. An energy audit requires more customer education and thus more time spent in the analysis and sale of the job. HVAC contractors that have learned how to include energy audits in their business model continue to do so because it works and is the right thing to do for the customer.

Next Steps – Getting started with energy audits will require research and education. There are several models available that should be considered for your company. Two are listed below:

  • Audits through an outside contractor – There are numerous home performance contractors already working in the industry who may be willing to partner with you. Find a home performance contractor that will work with you to expand the service your company provides your customers.
  • Audits through an internal employee – If you have someone who is already trained, or willing to be trained to conduct audits, this model may work well for you. You will need to purchase the tools necessary to conduct the audits, which may be costly. Used equipment may be purchased to limit expenses. There are also numerous training programs available to ensure your employee is certified to conduct audits. The Building Performance Institute (BPI) is the industry certification provider.

In either scenario above, you will need to consider how you will work with your customer to deliver the measures recommended via the audit. You can either subcontract the work to home performance or insulation companies or do them yourself. If you want to ease into the energy audit world, it might be good to partner with a Home Performance contractor who has the ability to deliver the measures as well. As you see how energy auditing fits into your business, you can expand the services your company provides.

Ron Abremski
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Posted In: Building Performance, Residential Buildings

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